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Slow start dooms Miami in third consecutive loss

By Zach Maciaszek
On February 13, 2014

The University at Buffalo Bulls (14-7, 8-3 MAC) stampeded Miami University men's basketball team (9-13, 5-6 MAC) 75-62 Wednesday.

Head coach John Cooper identified three aspects of the game that doomed the RedHawks: a slow start, turnovers and a lack of rebounding.

"We dig ourselves an extremely large hole," Cooper said. "Now you're putting yourself in a position where it's going to take an inordinate amount of energy to come back. Secondly, they dominated us on the boards, and then third we had so many what I would say are unforced turnovers, putting them in transition."

Buffalo jumped out to a 25-12 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Miami was able to close the gap slightly, heading into the locker room down 42-33. The closest the RedHawks got to the Bulls was within three, down 61-58 with 5:56 to go.

From that point on, Buffalo went on a 14-4 run to seal Miami's fate.

The RedHawks succumbed yet again to an ill that has plagued them all season-long: their size (or lack thereof).

Miami was outrebounded 40-25, including 12-5 on the offensive glass resulting in a 15-2 deficit in second-chance points. The 'Hawks were also outmuscled in the paint, as the Bulls bullied their way to a 34-20 advantage scoring inside.

The man responsible for most of that damage on the part of the Bulls was senior forward Javon McCrea. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward who physically resembles a bull in human guise battered the RedHawks for 25 points and 11 rebounds on an incredibly efficient 12-14 from the field.

Cooper said McCrea presented an unsolvable problem for the 'Hawks.

"We had no answer for McCrea," Cooper said. "He was just able to really work and get deep post position and cause most of the problems for [us] defensively."

Senior forward Will Felder drew the unenviable task of facing McCrea on both ends of the floor.

"He's a pretty big body," Felder said. "He tries to create angles with his body a lot and then he goes hard to the glass. So really it's got to be a team effort to kind of try to contain him."

Felder scored 13 points and added eight rebounds.

Freshman guard Jaryd Eustace led the RedHawks with a career-high 17 points, knocking down four of six 3-point attempts. The Australian appears to be finding his groove, as this performance follows a 14-point outing against Ohio University.

"I'm just focusing on doing the little things," Eustace said. "Offense will come with it. The harder I'm working, the more results I'll get on the offensive end. [But] points are irrelevant when we lose."

After climbing their way to one game back in the Mid-American Conference standings just two weeks ago, the RedHawks find themselves mired in a three-game losing streak and in danger of falling out of the race.

It doesn't get any easier for MU either, as it hits the road to play the Broncos of Western Michigan University (15-8, 8-3 MAC) Saturday.

"As they say 'welcome to league play,'" Cooper said. "We've got our hands full with Western [Michigan] ... they've shown the ability to win the game when it's in the 50s and win the game when it's in the 70s and 80s and that's the sign of a good basketball team."

The Broncos, who are 10-2 at home, are paced by senior guard David Brown, who leads the MAC in scoring at 18.8 points per game. Second on the team in points is 6-foot-11 senior center Shayne Wittington, who averages 14.8 points and 8.6 boards. Together they form a potent inside-outside duo that Miami will find hard to counter.

Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

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